one of the less know national parks, congaree, is only a 2 hour drive up the road from charleston - and it is well worth the trip. i am surprised how many people i talk to that have lived in charleston for years, and don't even know we have a NP. i have paddled the park a number of times, there is a canoe trail here that is amazing, although usually quite difficult. i say it is difficult because it is rarely maintained, and trees fall across the creek on a weekly basis it seems, causing many muddy and inconvenient portages with a fully loaded boat.
i decided to forgo paddling this time, and see it from a different view - hiking. there are 24 miles of hiking trails here, and i got about ten covered on my recent visit. congaree contains the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the united states. what does that mean? giant. ass. trees. one of the loblolly pine trees here is 167 feet tall - that is 16 stories high. unfortunately a lot of the giants fell to strong winds from hurricane hugo in 1989 - but you can still feel incredibly small walking through this forrest.
if you live nearby, do yourself a favor and check this place out - it is free!
if you can't make it, check out the gallery to see what you are missing.